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Last updated on Jan 15, 2020

Apple Music vs. Spotify

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Apple Music vs. Spotify

Spotify leads the music streaming industry worldwide with over 100 million paid subscribers—248 million, including its free version. Features such as its universal device compatibility, dynamic social sharing options, and industry-defining music discovery tools have added to the provider’s immense popularity.

Leading the U.S. market in paid subscribers, Apple Music stands out as one of the largest music streaming services in the world with a library of 60 million songs. Another standout feature is its Beats 1 live radio component with exclusive artist interviews and specially selected playlists.

Apple Music vs. Spotify Premium Overview

Apple Music and Spotify Premium match head-to-head on pricing with their individual monthly and annual costs, six-person family plans, and student discounts. We took a deep dive into both services’ music libraries and averaged the numbers they boasted to present you with a more accurate estimate.

Apple Music
Spotify Premium
Monthly price
$9.99/mo.
$9.99/mo.
Annual price
$99/yr.
$99/yr.
Student plan
$4.99/mo.
$4.99/mo.
Family plan
$14.99/mo.
$14.99/mo.
Number of songs
60 million
50 million+
Ad-free listening
Yes
Yes
Free trial length
3 months
3 months

Music library

Spotify and Apple Music add thousands of tracks on a daily basis to their respective catalogs, steadily altering their numbers. Soaring past 40 million tracks, Spotify contributes more than 20,000 new songs per day to its immense library. Its New Releases tab houses the latest tunes, exclusive live sessions, and new singles every Friday. Also, to note, Spotify opens its entire music library to its free subscribers—though, your experience will be peppered with ads and limited to shuffle mode with a handful of skips while using its mobile app.

Spotify’s numbers are rivaled by Apple Music’s growing catalog, which exceeds the latter’s with 60 million songs. Not only does Apple Music have an abundant selection, but it also enters into deals with select artists to release music exclusively through its service before streaming to others. By contrast, Spotify allows Premium subscribers to enjoy new releases for two weeks before making the tracks available to listeners signed up for the free plan.

Music discovery

Whether you’re a free or Premium subscriber, Spotify creates playlists based on your tastes (as tracked by algorithm) and your saved songs within the app. It provides personalized options like “Discover Weekly” and “Daily Mixes.” Both generate selections of your favorite music while also introducing similar songs and artists you may have never heard before.

When you create an account with Apple Music, you’re given the opportunity to choose your favorite artists so Apple’s algorithm can discern your preferences. The service depicts your choices as balls on your screen. When using your mobile device, what starts out as aesthetically pleasing quickly becomes cluttered. This potentially limits discovering new artists and may bog your screen down with numerous visuals. It can also lead to slow data processing speeds.

Offline listening

On paper, both streaming giants offer huge numbers when it comes to downloads. However, you can store almost as many songs as you wish with Apple Music, spanning across ten devices as long as you’re signed in with your Apple ID. The download limit is technically 100,000 tracks—an amount most users would find themselves hard-pressed to fill. Since your iCloud Music Library “matches” music within both your Apple Music and iTunes collections, you maintain access to music from the streaming service as well as tracks accumulated elsewhere right at your fingertips and across all your devices.

Following closely behind, Spotify permits 10,000 downloads. While the service enjoys universal compatibility, it lags behind when it comes to infrastructure. Its offline music isn’t stored in the cloud, so tracks can only be accessed locally through five devices on Spotify’s app.

Streaming quality

The sound quality of Spotify and Apple Music is based on a variety of features, including bit rate, encoding formats, and the age of the music being streamed. Spotify utilizes Ogg Vorbis to encode at 320 kbps, whereas Apple Music streams at 256 kbps in Advanced Audio Coding. Spotify’s larger number is only one in a variety of factors at play. For one, older music is more difficult to judge than newer releases. There are simply more versions to pull from, especially when considering pre-digital recordings. Unless you’re listening closely, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two services. They’re pretty similar, especially when compared to vinyl, high-quality digital sources, and CDs.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a music enthusiast who loves finding new songs and artists, while easily sharing with friends, you’ll be happy with Spotify. If, on the other hand, you’re more attracted to an enormous music library and want to be among the first to listen to new songs, you can’t go wrong with Apple Music.

About the Authors

Zack Kulm

Zack Kulm Contributing Writer

Zack Kulm is a writer and contributor to soda.com. He covers a variety of topics from entertainment and gaming technologies to pop culture commentary. Kulm received a degree in English from Penn State University and Film Studies from Pittsburgh Filmmakers Institute. He also produces award-winning documentaries.